Overview

Game theory—the study of how people make choices while interacting with others—is one of the most popular technical approaches in social science today. But as Michael Chwe reveals in his insightful new book, Jane Austen explored game theory’s core ideas in her six novels roughly two hundred years ago—over a century before its mathematical development during the Cold War. Jane Austen, Game Theorist shows how this beloved writer theorized choice and preferences, prized strategic thinking, and analyzed why superiors...

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Jane Austen, Game Theorist

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Overview

Game theory—the study of how people make choices while interacting with others—is one of the most popular technical approaches in social science today. But as Michael Chwe reveals in his insightful new book, Jane Austen explored game theory’s core ideas in her six novels roughly two hundred years ago—over a century before its mathematical development during the Cold War. Jane Austen, Game Theorist shows how this beloved writer theorized choice and preferences, prized strategic thinking, and analyzed why superiors are often strategically clueless about inferiors. Exploring a diverse range of literature and folktales, this book illustrates the wide relevance of game theory and how, fundamentally, we are all strategic thinkers.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Jennifer Schuessler
Jane Austen, Game Theorist . . . is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.'. . . Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn't merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare.
Guardian.co.uk's Grrl Scientist blog
This is such a fabulous book—carefully written, thoughtful and insightful . . .
From the Publisher

"Jane Austen, Game Theorist . . . is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.'. . . Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn't merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare."--Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

"[A] convincing case for how mathematical models and fictional narratives can work towards reciprocal illustration."--Jonathan Sachs, Times Literary Supplement

"This is insightful literary analysis at its most accessible and enjoyable."--Kate Hutchings, Huffington Post Books

"Jane Austen, Game Theorist should join the list of strategic classics like The Art of War . . . on the shelf of everybody who wants to be effective in life."--Diane Coyle, Enlightenment Economics

"Chwe makes an argument for Austen as a founder of decision science in this 2013 book that boasts an impressive array of diagrams and hard-nosed textual analysis."--Evelyn Crowley, Vogue.com

"This is such a fabulous book--carefully written, thoughtful and insightful . . ."--Guardian.co.uk's Grrl Scientist blog

"[B]lends two very different subjects--game theory and literature--delightfully."--Siddarth Singh, Mint

"Well researched and with an excellent index, the book will appeal to Austen fans who can see her characters in another light . . ."--Choice

"When an intelligent, knowledgeable reader with a new distinctive viewpoint engages intensely with a great work of literature, the results are usually worthy of attention. There is much that is valuable in Chwe's book."--Ernest Davis, SIAM News

"Chwe's volume is a valuable first step toward a more interdisciplinary and much more inclusive field of decision sciences."--Mary Flanagan, American Journal of Play

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400851331
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/23/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: New Afterword
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 332,074
  • File size: 868 KB

Meet the Author

Michael Suk-Young Chwe is professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of "Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge" (Princeton).
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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Abbreviations xiii
CHAPTER ONE The Argument 1
CHAPTER TWO Game Theory in Context 9

  • Rational Choice Theory 9
  • Game Theory 12
  • Strategic Thinking 15
  • How Game Theory Is Useful 19
  • Criticisms 25
  • Game Theory and Literature 30

CHAPTER THREE Folktales and Civil Rights 35
CHAPTER FOUR Flossie and the Fox 43
CHAPTER FIVE Jane Austen's Six Novels 49

  • Pride and Prejudice 50
  • Sense and Sensibility 54
  • Persuasion 60
  • Northanger Abbey 67
  • Mansfield Park 75
  • Emma 86

CHAPTER SIX Austen's Foundations of Game Theory 97

  • Choice 97
  • Preferences 102
  • Revealed Preferences 105
  • Names for Strategic Thinking 107
  • Strategic Sophomores 111
  • Eyes 113

CHAPTER SEVEN Austen's Competing Models 115

  • Emotions 115
  • Instincts 119
  • Habits 121
  • Rules 124
  • Social Factors 127
  • Ideology 128
  • Intoxication 130
  • Constraints 130

CHAPTER EIGHT Austen on What Strategic Thinking Is Not 133

  • Strategic Thinking Is Not Selfish 133
  • Strategic Thinking Is Not Moralistic 134
  • Strategic Thinking Is Not Economistic 135
  • Strategic Thinking Is Not About Winning Inconsequential Games 137

CHAPTER NINE Austen's Innovations 141

  • Partners in Strategic Manipulation 141
  • Strategizing About Yourself 153
  • Preference Change 158
  • Constancy 167

CHAPTER TEN Austen on Strategic Thinking's Disadvantages 171
CHAPTER ELEVEN Austen's Intentions 179
CHAPTER TWELVE Austen on Cluelessness 188

  • Lack of Natural Ability 188
  • Social Distance 198
  • Excessive Self-Reference 200
  • High-Status People Are Not Supposed to Enter the Minds of Low-Status People 202
  • Presumption Sometimes Works 205
  • Decisive Blunders 205

CHAPTER THIRTEEN Real-World Cluelessness 211

  • Cluelessness Is Easier 211
  • Difficulty Embodying Low-Status Others 213
  • Investing in Social Status 217
  • Improving Your Bargaining Position 219
  • Empathy Prevention 224
  • Calling People Animals 225

CHAPTER FOURTEEN Concluding Remarks 228
References 235
Index 253

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